Saturday, July 13, 2013
Conservative columnist Kathleen Parker floats back and forth between la la land apologies for the Republican Party to clear eyed recognition that the GOP is drifting further and further into extremism and likely long term political death. In a column in the Washington Post she is back in reality based mode and lambasts the GOP controlled House of Representatives for passing a farm bill devoid of any provisions for food stamps. Here are highlights:
Republicans seem to be adopting the self-immolation tactics of principled martyrs. Of course, principled or not, you’re still dead in the end.
At this stage in the second term of the president they couldn’t defeat, Republicans seem more like stubborn children refusing to come out of their rooms for supper, even though the alternative is going to bed hungry.
This simile is unavoidable in light of the House’s passage of a farm bill without any provision for food stamps — the first in 40 years. The move prompted fantastic outrage from Democrats, notably Rep. Corrine Brown (Fla.), who shrieked: “Mitt Romney was right: You all do not care about the 47 percent. Shame on you!”
Republicans argued that they’d prefer to deal with agricultural issues in one bill without the leverage of a welfare program.
These two programs historically were tied together in the spirit of — watch out now — compromise. And, though food stamps certainly will be funded, probably at current levels, through some other vehicle, Republicans managed to create yet another partisan problem where none existed and opened themselves up for gratuitous criticism. Was this really the right fight at the right time?
The wrong time would be in the midst of the politically life-altering debate on immigration reform. Again, congressional Republicans want to parse reform in pieces, excluding the 11 million or so immigrants here illegally, instead of dealing with reform comprehensively, as the Senate has done — and as most Americans think necessary.
90 percent of life is picking your battles, and congressional Republicans keep picking the wrong ones. This is not true of all. Former Republican vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) has joined Luis V. Gutierrez (D-Ill.) to push comprehensive immigration reform.
Republicans are not shooting straight when they insist that the Senate bill’s path to citizenship is de facto amnesty. As paths go, it’s a 13-year pilgrimage along a precipice lined with bramble bushes — taxes, fines and various burning hoops through which one must leap in order to stand in line. Hardly rose-petal strewn.
Republican intransigence is further compounded by the echo chamber of the Tinker Bell Coalition — the Weekly Standard’s Bill Kristol and National Review’s Rich Lowry, who recently co-authored an editorial urging Republicans to drive a stake through the heart of immigration reform.
These are the same two who thought Sarah Palin would be the perfect running mate for John McCain.
. . . fairy dust has a way of contaminating the Republican Way of Thinking. Before you can govern, you have to win. And before you can win, you have to offer something people want to buy.
What Republicans are selling appeals to an ever-diminishing market that doesn’t even include their erstwhile allies in business and industry. And their self-immolation may prove to have been nothing more than a bonfire of vanities.
Ouch!!! She's right, of course. Increasingly the House GOP cares nothing for what a majority of Americans want or think. It's all about pleasing the spittle flecked Christofascists and the knuckle dragging Neanderthals of the Tea Party.
Hillary Clinton is leading both Chris Christie and Rand Paul in a potential 2016 presidential race, a new poll finds.
Clinton holds a 46 percent to 40 percent lead over the New Jersey governor, according to the Quinnipiac poll out Friday.
The former secretary of state also would beat the Kentucky senator in a head-to-head, the poll found. Clinton led Paul 50 percent to 38 percent.
Vice President Joe Biden, another Democrat rumored to be in the mix for 2016, didn’t fare as well. Biden was trailing Christie 35 percent to 46 percent and was in a dead heat with Paul at 42 percent.
Part of the explanation may be in the favorability numbers: 55 percent of those surveyed said they viewed Clinton favorably, compared with 38 percent who viewed her unfavorably. Biden, however, was underwater, with 44 percent viewing him unfavorably and 38 percent viewing him favorably.
Christie, however, was the only candidate that was viewed more favorably than not by members of the opposite party. Forty-one percent of Democrats surveyed viewed him favorably and 19 percent did not.
One thing that always pisses me off is the way the Christofacists believe they have free license to say whatever foul and horrible thing they want about gay citizens hiding behind the cloak of "deeply held religious belief." Of course, most of what they say is a pack of outright lies and they seem to see themselves as exempt from the Commandment against lying and bearing false witness. Somehow they only observe nine Commandments. Here in Virginia this year we have the most extreme and insane slate of GOP statewide candidates in Virginia's history. While the most openly insane is Lt. Governor candidate "Bishop" E. W. Jackson, who n my view belongs in an insane asylum, gubernatorial candidate Ken Cuccinelli and Attorney General candidate Mark Obenshain share Jackson's views of gays - they are simply trying to hide their extremism from voters. Above is a mock ad against Jackson that I would personally like to see aired in Virginia so as to put Jackson's hate and batshitery on the air waves. A piece in The Advocate considers the ad and in the closing paragraphs sums up my views:
I work in the information business. I can't possibly agree with the notion that spreading the word about what homophobes say doesn't make a difference, that it doesn't help reduce homophobia in the long run. What I believe will happen (and has been happening) is that Americans are recoiling from the likes of E.W. Jackson and Michele Bachmann and Rick Santorum and the others.
Times have changed. Americans by and large are not asking us to hide anymore. But we can't expect them to stand up for us if we won't first stand up for ourselves.
Jackson may play well to the rural and less educated parts of Virginia, but many areas, including Hampton Roads and Northern Virginia will likely view him as frightening. But only if his fully insanity is put on view. The same goes for Ken Cuccinelli who hopefully will soon have to defend the Marshall-Newman Amendment as soon as the ACLU files its promised lawsuit. Just last night the boyfriend and I had dinner at the James River Country Club - not exactly perceived as a bastion of liberalism - as guests of friends and not one person batted an eye seeing a gay couple there. And they ALL know who we are due to the boyfriend's near celebrity status with the women. We need to be open about who we are and we need to take the battle back against the hate merchants like Jackson, Cuccinelli and Obenshain.
Friday, July 12, 2013
Before Asians, Hispanics and all the other groups can be won with economic plans, they need to feel respected and understood by the G.O.P. . . . . This is what so many on the right just don’t understand. Their very arguments against universal healthcare and gay marriage and immigration reform are all made as if the working poor, gays, and illegal Latino immigrants were not in the room. You think we don’t hear that in the tone and content of what they are saying? It’s the way in which people who desperately need healthcare are dismissed as abstractions, or in which gays are never offered any actual policy but avoidance and disdain, or in which hard-working immigrants – living in a kind of radical insecurity no white native-born Republican has ever fully experienced or imagined – are simply told to hang around for a few more years, or “self-deport”. That bespeaks a disconnect that obscures any capacity to govern this country as it actually is – rather than as they would like it to be.
We are listening and we know that the GOP base sees us as not even fully human. Likewise, we get the message that there is little concern about our lives or our very survival. Here in Virginia, this aspect of the GOP is all too clear in the form of the insane statewide slate of candidates nominated for the 2013 elections.
Other than slashing social safety net programs, nothing warms the heart of the Christofascist base of the GOP more than bashing gays and stigmatizing us in every way possible. However, with the rapid rising in support for gay marriage, we may be about to see an example of where pandering to the party base could prove toxic in a general election. The case in point is Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett (pictured above) who must decide whether or not to defend Pennsylvania' anti-gay marriage law now that that state's Attorney General has announced that she will not defend the law which she describes as "wholly unconstitutional." A piece in Politico looks at the quandry that Corbett faces. Here are highlights:
Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett, who’s suffering from low approval ratings and has a tough reelection battle looming next year, is facing yet another politically difficult decision: whether or not to stand up for the Keystone State’s same-sex marriage ban.State Attorney General Kathleen Kane, a Democrat, said Thursday that she wouldn’t defend the ban in court — raising the issue on a state level for the first time since the Supreme Court ruled against the federal Defense of Marriage Act.Since Kane has declined to defend the law, the responsibility falls to Corbett to decide what to do. Pennsylvania General Counsel James D. Schultz said in a statement Thursday afternoon that Corbett’s office “will continue to review the lawsuit” — and took a swipe at Kane.
I make no secret that I view America's venture into Iraq and Afghanistan as a fool's errand that was launched by a cretin in the White House and a megalomania consumed monster at Blair House. The result has been thousands of Americans killed and many times more seriously wounded, some horrifically, and the squandering of billions and billions of dollars. And what has our "nation building" created? Something very ugly and as hypocrisy filled as the world of the "godly Christian" Christofascists and the Catholic Church hierarchy only this nightmare operates under Islam. Besides the rampant corruption and pilfering of American funds there is the rape and trafficking in children by those American taxpayers are supporting financially. A new documentary, “This Is What Winning Looks Like,” provides a picture of the horrors done by our "Afghan allies." Here is a sampling via the American Conservative:
In December 2012, Maj. Bill Steuber heard that three boys had been shot dead while fleeing the Afghan police headquarters. A fourth was shot point blank in the knee as punishment for trying to escape.
Steuber, a U.S. Marine in charge of the police advisory team in Sangin district, Helmand province, marched into the office of Qhattab Khan, the assistant district chief of police. Journalist Ben Anderson filmed the exchange for the new stomach-churning documentary, “This Is What Winning Looks Like.”
“Why was there a boy on that police base?” Steuber asks Khan, “What did that commander say to you?” There’s sadness and anger in Steuber’s voice, because he already knows the answer: police commanders routinely abduct young boys to serve as “chai boys,” house servants who are also kept as sex slaves.
This extent of child rape in Afghanistan is hard to measure, but it’s a practice widely attested by journalists, human rights investigators, NATO soldiers, and Afghans themselves. As the White House considers how to wind down the war in Afghanistan, it’s worth reflecting on one of the saddest, most sordid of aspects of that sad and sordid war.
In 2009 the Defense Department was concerned that NATO soldiers were bewildered and outraged by the sexual practices of Afghan civilians and soldiers: seeing old men trying to fondle young boys, being shown cell phone pictures of children by their Afghan counterparts. The military commissioned an anthropological study, “Pashtun Sexuality.” In 2010 the San Fransisco Chronicle reported on the study’s findings:
For centuries, Afghan men have taken boys, roughly 9 to 15 years old, as lovers. Some research suggests that half the Pashtun tribal members in Kandahar and other southern towns are bacha baz, the term for an older man with a boy lover. Literally it means “boy player.” The men like to boast about it.
“Having a boy has become a custom for us,” Enayatullah, a 42-year-old in Baghlan province, told a Reuters reporter. “Whoever wants to show off should have a boy.”The authors of “Pashtun Sexuality” venture that the practice of bacha baazi is a function of a culture of extreme fear of female sexuality. The Chronicle article cites a 29-year-old who told a reporter, “How can you fall in love if you can’t see her face?…We can see the boys, so we can tell which are beautiful.”
The State Department has called bacha baazi a “widespread, culturally sanctioned form of male rape.” For instance, one military intelligence reservist related a story about an Afghan colonel who stood before a judge after he hurt a chai boy by violently raping him: “His defense was, ‘Honestly, who hasn’t raped a chai boy? Ha ha ha.’ The judge responds, ‘You’re right. Case dismissed.’”
Cracking down on this practice is nearly impossible, as the main culprits are often the very law enforcement and military personnel that the U.S. works alongside.
Steuber tells the camera later, “working with child molesters, working with people who are robbing people, murdering them. It wears on you after a while.”
Khan seems considerably less concerned. “If they don’t f–k the asses of those boys, what should they f–k?” he asks at one point. “The p—–s of their own grandmothers? Their asses were used before, and now they want to get what they are owed.”
Yep, this is what American taxpayers are financially underwriting. We need to leave Afghanistan NOW.
Russia is seemingly trying hard to force the International Olympic Committee to rethink holding the 2014 winter games in Russia. Why else announce that "openly gay tourists" will be arrested? Vladimir Putin must be indeed desperate to (i) distract Russians from the failure of his rule and (ii) kiss the ass of the Russian Orthodox Church hierarchy which has always backed dictators. Travel and Escape has details. Here are excerpts:
Thinking of taking a vacation to Europe this summer? If a trip to iconic city of Moscow or the edgier St. Petersburg is on your bucket list, an anti-gay law recently passed in Russia may have you thinking again. It is now outlawed to be ‘out and proud.’
In a throwback to the country’s authoritarian ruling, Russian president Vladimir Putin has signed a controversial law that punishes people for “homosexual propaganda.” The law fines people—including tourists—up to 200,000 rubles ($6,240 CDN) for “propaganda of non-traditional sexual relations.” For Canadians—where same-sex marriage is legal—it is unfathomable that Russia’s laws permit the government to arrest and detain gay, or pro-gay, foreigners for up to 14 days before they would then be expelled from the country.
So what is considered pro-gay? Anything from gay-affirmative speech to hand-holding; even displaying a rainbow flag alongside a maple leaf on your backpack is illegal. Recently in southern Russia, there were complaints that Elton John’s stage outfits fell under “gay propaganda.” While LGBT are being told they are unwelcome in Russia, with such vague definitions, one wonders if anyone who even looks like they might be gay could also be fined or deported from the country.
According to Voice of Russia, any display of affection between same-sex couples could cause a “distorted understanding” that gay relations and heterosexual relations are socially equivalent, and risk spreading Western liberalism. Putin claims the law doesn’t discriminate against LGBT people, but rather—in an argument riddled with faulty logic—is there to “protect children from pedophilia.”
And how are these new laws going to impact tourism and the world’s spotlight on the upcoming 2014 Winter Games in Sochi? Will LGBT visitors—or anyone who embraces the gay community—want to visit the games? While Russia’s laws stigmatize and target the gay community, Brazil’s Ministry of Tourism is working to encourage the LGBT community to visit. Brazil, which is hosting the 2016 Summer Olympic Games, as well as the 2014 World Cup.
Fortunately, for LGBT travellers looking to take a vacation, there are other parts of the world more receptive to welcoming them with open arms—or at least not promising your vacation could wind up with jail time.
Russia is definitely on my "do not visit" list - even though I was a Russian history major in college.
For a political party that falls all over itself pretending to honor - indeed worship - Christian values, the passage of a GOP Farm Bill yesterday that excluded any funding for Food Stamps (which were described as one of "some extraneous pieces") demonstrates that the hypocrisy of today's Republicans is now complete. How is one honoring the Gospel message of feeding the hungry and caring for the poor when one votes for passage of legislation that kicks their poor and hungry to the curb? These modern day Pharisee truly would like to see the poor just die off and disappear. Especially if they are non-white. Mitt Romney's "the 47%" comment did indeed show today's real GOP. A column in the Washington Post looks at this disgusting display of GOP hypocrisy and selfishness:
There was a rare moment of candor on the House floor this week. Rep. Pete Sessions (R-Tex.), a committee chairman and the man who led House Republicans to their majority in 2010, was explaining why he and his colleagues decided to drop the food stamp program from the farm bill.
“What we have carefully done is exclude some extraneous pieces,” he said. Extraneous? For almost 50 years, food stamps have been part of the annual farm bill, and the $80 billion spent on the program keeps tens of millions of Americans, about half of them children, from going hungry.
Without a single Democratic vote, House Republicans narrowly passed a bill that, if allowed to stand, would provide hundreds of billions of dollars in agriculture subsidies but not a dime for the hungry. Happily, Americans are unlikely to starve as a result of Thursday’s vote because the Senate won’t allow the House’s farm bill to become law if the food stamp program isn’t restored.
But as a political matter, the food stamp folly shows just what a difficult situation Republican leaders find themselves in. For the second time in two days, they had been forced to placate conservatives in their own ranks by taking a position that alienates crucial segments of the electorate.
On Wednesday, the House GOP caucus huddled and determined that, because of conservatives’ objections, they would not take up the bipartisan Senate immigration bill, or any major immigration legislation, anytime soon.
. . . . inviting new charges that Republicans are hostile to racial minorities — 36 percent of food stamp beneficiaries are identified as white — and the poor.
Today's "conservatives" - most of whom describe themselves as "godly Christians" - are horrible people who care nothing about others and add daily fuel to why one would never be described as a Christian.
Thursday, July 11, 2013
The hysteria at The Family Foundation ("TFF") and other falsely self-described "family values" organizations in Virginia whose real agenda is to impose their extreme hate filled religious beliefs on all citizens must be building. As noted, a new poll reveals that 55% of Virginians now support gay marriage. Victoria Cobb and her fellow haters must be absolutely beside themselves. And the timing of this new information could not be worse given that a lawsuit challenging the foul Marshall-Newman Amendment (which was spearheaded by TFF and proven gay haters like Del. Bob Marshall and Ken "Kookinelli" Cuccinelli) is likely to be filed any week now. Note: the poll was done by bi-partisan polling organizations. The Richmond Times Dispatch has details on the new poll findings. Here are excerpts:
A new poll shows that Virginians’ views on same-sex marriage have shifted in its favor seven years after voters easily passed an amendment to the state constitution that defines marriage as between one man and one woman.
About 55 percent of Virginia voters now believe that marriage between people of the same sex should be allowed, while 41 percent oppose it, according to a poll released today by the Human Rights Campaign — the nation’s largest LGBT equality-rights advocacy group.
Chad Griffin, president of the Human Rights Campaign, will be in Richmond today to discuss the poll results and endorsements of the Democratic candidates for statewide office, Terry McAuliffe for governor, and state Sens. Ralph S. Northam, D-Norfolk for lieutenant governor and Mark R. Herring, D-Loudoun for attorney general.
A bipartisan team of pollsters, from the Democratic-leaning Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research, and Target Point Consulting, a Republican organization, conducted the survey . . . .
In Virginia, where the American Civil Liberties Union announced this week that it will file suit in federal court to challenge the state’s 2006 constitutional amendment, the latest poll is the latest signal that the ground is softening.
The new poll shows that while Northern Virginia leads support for same-sex marriage with 68 percent, it also finds majority support in central (53 percent) and Eastern Virginia (51 percent).
The main opposition to gay marriage in Virginia remains centered in the Southwester and Southern tier of the state - regions not coincidentally with high unemployment which cannot attract modern, progressive businesses and employers to move to their areas. At the same time, population in the gay friendly areas of Virginia is increasing while it is declining in the gay hating/GOP loving parts of the state. Bigotry does carry an economic and a political price. Not that the Virginia GOP has figured out yet that it is committing a slow form of suicide.
Making good on its promise, the ACLU filed suit today in federal court challenging Pennsylvania's anti-gay DOMA law. The ACLU has promised to file suits shortly in both Virginia and North Carolina challenging those state's anti-gay state constitutional amendments. Here in Virginia, a new poll shows that 55% of Virginians now support gay marriage. That, of course will mean nothing to self-loathing closet case, Attorney General/GOP gubernatorial candidate Ken Cuccinelli who will no doubt defend Virginia's animus based amendment and dutifully following orders dictated to him by the Christofascists at The Family Foundation. But back to Pennsylvania. Pennsylvania Attorney General Kathleen Kane (pictured above) has said that she will not defend the statute because it is "wholly unconstitutional" in the wake of the holding in United States v. Windsor. Now, the question is whether or not GOP Governor Tom Corbett will step forward to defend the anti-gay law. Here are highlights from the Washington Post:
Pennsylvania attorney general Kathleen Kane announced Thursday afternoon she will not defend the state in a federal lawsuit filed this week challenging the constitutionality of the state’s ban on same-sex marriage, calling the prohibition “wholly unconstitutional.”
The American Civil Liberties Union filed suit Tuesday on behalf of 23 Pennsylvania residents, including 10 couples, a widow and two children, naming Kane and the state’s Republican Gov. Tom Corbett as defendants. Kane’s move, announced to reporters at Philadelphia’s National Constitution Center, places the burden of defending the law on the governor’s general counsel. Corbett supports the prohibition on same-sex marriage, which passed the state legislature in 1996.
“If there is a law that I feel that does not conform with the Pennsylvania state constitution and the U.S. Constitution, then I ethically cannot do that as a lawyer,” she said.
Thomas Peters, spokesman for the National Organization for Marriage, said Kane’s refusal to defend the ban represented a sort of “pocket veto” of the law.
Kane framed her decision both in terms of her constitutional obligations and her commitment to Pennsylvania residents, saying that in a choice between defending the law and serving the public, “I choose you.”
Mary Catherine Roper, a senior staff attorney for the ACLU of Pennsylvania, said she and others involved in the lawsuit were “celebrating” in the wake of Kane’s announcement.
“To have the highest law enforcement official of the Commonwealth come out and say, ‘I agree with you, this law is unjust, that’s huge for us,’” Roper said in a phone interview, her voice audibly emotional.
However the the state GOP chairman Rob Gleason released a statement calling it “unacceptable for Attorney General Kathleen Kane to put her personal politics ahead of her taxpayer-funded job by abdicating her responsibilities.”
As a licensed attorney of over 35 years, I believe that Kane has taken the ethically correct posture. As an attorney - which she is - she is ethically bound NOT to make false and fraudulent arguments to the Court. With the decision in Windsor so clearly zeroing in on the anti-gay animus that was behind the federal DOMA law - the same type of anti-gay animus that was behind both the Pennsylvania law and the constitutional amendments in Virginia and North Carolina - to defend such a law law that is based on nothing but animus and extreme religious beliefs could theoretically expose an attorney to sanctions by the Court and disciplinary actions by the applicable state bar. Not that such concerns will constrain Ken Cuccinelli and similar Christofascists who deem themselves above the laws and rules that govern the rest of us. Religious belief has no place in the civil laws of the states or the nation.
I generally view Billy O'Reilly to be a crazy, mean spirited windbag. But every now and then he will say something that is dead on target correct. Such as his statement that telling a gay person "you're going to Hell" should be illegal. One can just imagine the swoons and flying spittle amongst the Christofascist set at O'Reilly apostasy. Nothing gives these modern day Pharisees more joy than telling us gays that we are going to Hell, although I suspect that, if there is a Hell, it is mostly peopled by truly horrible people - e.g., Hitler and Stalin - and the modern day Pharisee crowd and conservative religious leaders such as John Paul II. Towleroad looks at O'Reilly's statement:
[O]n his show last night, the Fox News host expressed a belief that telling a gay person "you're going to Hell" should be illegal--at least, in some instances.
O'Reilly's guest last night was John Stossel--who hosts a weekly show on Fox Business--and the comment came amidst a discussion of American evangelist Tony Miano, who was arrested in London last week after preaching against homosexuality in front of a shopping center in Wimbledon. According to the Telegraph, Miano was arrested "under the controversial clause of the Public Order Act which bans 'insulting' words or behaviour."
"I think that should be against the law," O'Reilly said of any hypothetical anti-gay preacher who "went up to a homosexual, got in his face and said, 'you're going to hell, you're going to hell.' He’s invading the person’s space. He’s bringing intentional, personal anguish to the person. I think that person should be protected.”
Stossel expressed some agreement with O'Reilly but said that the standard should be based on "fighting words" that were meant to incite violence.
With all the huge problems facing America at the moment the Congressional Republicans have lots of things that they could be doing. But their number one obsession is thwarting the Affordable Health Care Act - a/k/a Obamacare - as evidenced by the ridiculous number of votes for its repeal in the GOP controlled House of Representatives. Why? First, because these cretins cannot grasp that we are already paying the cost of treating the uninsured through exorbitantly high medical cost which are inflated to recapture all the monies written off by hospitals and other providers. We have the least efficient and cost effective system of any advanced nation. Second, and most importantly, they are terrified that Obamacare might actually work and destroy all of their claims and doom saying. A piece in The Daily Beast looks at the phenomenon. Here are story excerpts:
I know, we’re all supposed to think the End Is Nigh because the government has decided to give the 10 percent of large employers who don’t insure their workers another 365 days to do so before levying a small penalty. This could not possibly be a reasonable accommodation to protect jobs and businesses, because as everybody knows, this president hates jobs and businesses.No, this brief delay must be a sign that the implementation of the Affordable Care Act is destined to result in abject failure. After all, that’s what every Congressional Republican with the ability to hit send on a press release has told us, over and over again, hoping that repeating their prediction enough times will somehow make it true.
But here’s my question: if Republicans are so confident Obamacare will end badly, why not just shut up about it? It’s not like they have the votes to repeal the law—a math problem they still haven’t solved after 37 different tries. Their appeal to the Supreme Court ended in defeat at the hands of a conservative chief justice. And now the bulk of the plan will begin to take effect in just a few months.
At this point, why not sit back and wait for this crazy experiment to self-destruct? Why not let President Obama and the Democrats reckon with the millions of angry Americans who will undoubtedly hate their new insurance or their new insurance protections?
Because Republicans are terrified that Obamacare could actually work. Already, the law has provided 54 million Americans free access to preventive services like check-ups and mammograms. More than six million seniors have saved more than six billion dollars on their prescriptions. Nearly thirteen million consumers have received more than one billion dollars in rebates from insurance companies that had overcharged them. There are more than three million happy young adults who have been allowed to stay on their parents’ health insurance until they turn 26. And in California, a state that represents one-fifth of the U.S. economy, we’ve learned that premiums for the law’s new insurance options have come in lower than expected.As these successes build, Republicans are naturally coping with their fear the only way they know how: by scaring the hell out of everyone else.
[T]oday, the anti-government zealots who have taken over the once-proud Republican Party feel they must burn our village to save it. They are actively trying to prevent Americans who have been too poor or sick to get health insurance from knowing that all three branches of their democratically elected government have passed and upheld a law that will finally allow them to see a doctor without going broke.
[T]here is now plenty of evidence that if we as a nation want Obamacare to work, it will work; that if we can extract ourselves from the trench warfare that preceded the passage of the law, we can all start focusing on fixing and improving it over the next year.
As more and more information continues to leak out about Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell and his family - especially his wife, Maureen - the image that springs to mind is hogs at a trough eating up all they can grab, except in the case of McDonnell and family it is how many gifts and how much money can be secured. While so far out of the fray in relative terms of the amount of loot secured, Ken Cuccinelli seemingly has engaged in a similar pattern of conduct with Star Scientific and its CEO, Jonnie R. Williams, Sr. I for one hope more attention is focused on Cuccinelli as time goes by, especially in light of his continued view of himself as being above the laws and codes of conduct that govern others. An editorial in the Washington Post slams McDonnell and should be a warning to Cuccinelli that he needs to come fully clean as well. Here are highlights:
“IN THESE TOUGH budget times, everybody’s got to contribute, and I intend to do our part,” Virginia Gov. Robert F. McDonnell said on the eve of his inauguration in 2010, explaining why he and his cabinet would take small pay cuts. A year later, Mr. McDonnell bragged that he had eliminated projected deficits in Virginia “by cutting spending.” And last year, touting his “fiscal prudence and conservative budgeting,” Mr. McDonnell piously hoped that Virginia’s example “would be a model for Washington.”Yet as Mr. McDonnell was touting the virtues of public-sector austerity, his personal life was a counter-example of profligacy, irresponsibility and entitlement.McDonnell and his family accepted upward of $200,000 in cash handouts, extravagant gifts and so-called loans — on generous terms unavailable to other mortals — from a Virginia businessman who sought the governor’s imprimatur and favorable treatment from the state for his company.Much of it went unreported on the disclosure forms that Mr. McDonnell filed annually with the state, thanks to lawyerly maneuvering, definitional hair-splitting and slippery accounting.Mr. McDonnell’s head-spinning hypocrisy has stained his reputation and shredded the bonds of trust that any governor must maintain with the public if he wishes to be effective and credible. It’s time for him to stop dodging hard questions and hiding behind legal niceties; it’s time for Mr. McDonnell to level with Virginians about what has become the state’s most toxic scandal in years.Federal and state investigators are continuing to examine the McDonnell-Williams nexus for evidence of illegality, and a grand jury is hearing evidence. But the test of Mr. McDonnell’s ethical judgment and common sense is not whether he ends up facing criminal charges. The fact is, his conduct was egregious, and he owes a full accounting to the public for whom he works.State lawmakers, most of whom have assumed a posture of stunned silence, also need to speak up. Do they not realize that Mr. McDonnell, by his actions, is rapidly recasting the state’s image for clean government?In the face of what was clearly a pattern of improper conduct and systematic disclosure-dodging, it is inadequate to say, as Mr. McDonnell has, that he has hewn to the letter of the law.
Blue Virginia lists out a number of questionable matters involving both McDonnell and Cuccinelli.
Wednesday, July 10, 2013
As this blog and other sources have sought to demonstrate, the one constant in the Roman Catholic Church hierarchy's approach to the global sex abuse scandal involving Catholic clergy is lies, cover ups, shuffling sexual predators from one unsuspecting parish to another. And no one in the hierarchy ever receives meaningful punishment for their role in this criminal conspiracy, least of all from the Vatican which is always so quick to condemn others (e.g., gays) and feign piety. Now, the United Nations has lost patience and the U.N. Committee on the Rights of the Child (CRC) has asked for “detailed information on all cases of child sexual abuse committed by members of the clergy, brothers or nuns” since the Holy See last reported to it some 15 years ago, and set November, 1, 2013, as the deadline for a reply. My bet is that the Vatican will blow off the U.N. since it believes itself to be above the law (like most Christian extremist organizations). First, here are highlights from CBC News:
A United Nations panel is demanding that the Vatican hand over detailed information on child sex abuse cases involving Catholic clergy.
In a document published online, the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child has asked the Vatican to come clean with how it addresses children's rights around the world, including what measures it takes when dealing with sexual violence.
The panel, which polices the 1989 Convention on the Rights of the Child, wants the Catholic Church to reveal confidential records on investigations and legal proceedings against clergy members accused of sexual crimes on children.
The Geneva-based committee also wants to know what measures are being taken to ensure that clergy members accused of sexual abuses are not in contact with children and how members are told to report allegations of sexual violence.
It also wants records on investigations into the Legion of Christ in Mexico, where young boys have accused the congregation of separating them from their families.
The list of demands comes ahead of a planned meeting between the UN and Holy See officials in January.
Clergy abuse victims had been calling for swift and bold action from Pope Francis as soon as he was elected in March. Weeks after his election, Francis directed the Vatican to act decisively on clergy sex abuse cases and to take measures against pedophile priests, but the directive was dismissed by some advocates as just talk.
The Globe and Mail also has coverage. Here are excerpts:
The request was included in a “list of issues”, posted on the CRC’s website, to be taken up when the Vatican appears before it next January to report on the Church’s performance under the 1990 U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child.
It will be the first time the Holy See has been publicly questioned by an international panel over the child abuse scandal which severely damaged the standing of the Roman Catholic Church in many countries around the world.
The CRC has no enforcement powers, but a negative report after the hearing would be a blow to the Church . . . .
By issuing its questions, the Geneva-based CRC brushed aside a Vatican warning that it might pull out of the Convention on the Rights of the Child if pushed too hard on the issue.
There was no immediate comment from the Vatican on Wednesday.
Nothing short of a global investigation will expose the full magnitude of the sexual abuse of children and youths countenanced by the Vatican or the complicity of most of the hierarchy in placing protection of child rapists above the safety and well-being of innocent children. The world - especially the Catholic laity - needs to see the true moral bankruptcy of the institutional Church.
Over my vacation I read the book "In the Garden of Evil" by Erik Larson which recounts the experiences of William E. Dodd, America’s Ambassador to Germany and his family in Third Reich Germany over the four years from 1933 t0 1937. It is an interesting read and demonstrates how a democracy can be subverted into a dictatorship by a small group of individuals. One of the many things that was striking was how the German populace closed their eyes to growing domestic spying and ultimately terror against citizens, especially those of Jewish descent, which was justified as necessary for domestic stability and national security. As we all know, by the time many woke up to reality, it was too late to stop Hitler and his megalomania. I'm am by no means comparing either George W. Bush/Dick Cheney or now Barack Obama to Hitler, but the justifications for the NSA's spying on American citizens sounds frighteningly similar to the Nazi's justifications for actions that led both to domestic terror against anyone deemed non-supportive of the Nazi regime and, of course, the nightmare of World War II. A new poll reported on in Talking Points Memo suggests that so far the America public is not as complacent as Germans in the 1930's. Here are story highlights:
A majority of American voters believe National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden is a whistleblower, according to a new poll from Quinnipiac University released Wednesday morning.The nationwide poll found that 55 percent of voters regard Snowden, the 30-year-old former defense contractor who leaked details of top secret surveillance programs, as a whistleblower. A mere 34 percent labeled him a traitor.
One can only hope that Barack Obama and members of Congress from both parties are listening. The America public needs to know what the crimes committed in their name (i.e., Bradley Manning's disclosure of war crimes) and likely unconstitutional domestic spying on U.S. citizens.
The southern boundary of the Hampton Roads area is the North Carolina/Virginia border. Indeed, my office is less than 25 miles from North Carolina and I've spent a great deal of time in the Outer Banks surfing. Hence, I thought I knew the state. Yet, since the Republican Party took control of the North Carolina legislature and governor's mansion, North Carolina has veered off into insanity. One has to wonder how long it will be before its reputation as a moderate and pro-business state is destroyed by the GOP/Christofascist extremism. An editorial in the New York Times looks at the rapid decline of that state. Here are excerpts:
Every Monday since April, thousands of North Carolina residents have gathered at the State Capitol to protest the grotesque damage that a new Republican majority has been doing to a tradition of caring for the least fortunate. Nearly 700 people have been arrested in the “Moral Monday” demonstrations, as they are known. But the bad news keeps on coming from the Legislature, and pretty soon a single day of the week may not be enough to contain the outrage.
In January, after the election of Pat McCrory as governor, Republicans took control of both the executive and legislative branches for the first time since Reconstruction. Since then, state government has become a demolition derby, tearing down years of progress in public education, tax policy, racial equality in the courtroom and access to the ballot.The cruelest decision by lawmakers went into effect last week: ending federal unemployment benefits for 70,000 residents. Another 100,000 will lose their checks in a few months. Those still receiving benefits will find that they have been cut by a third, to a maximum of $350 weekly from $535, and the length of time they can receive benefits has been slashed from 26 weeks to as few as 12 weeks.
At the same time, the state is also making it harder for future generations of workers to get jobs, cutting back sharply on spending for public schools. Though North Carolina has been growing rapidly, it is spending less on schools now than it did in 2007, ranking 46th in the nation in per-capita education dollars. Teacher pay is falling, 10,000 prekindergarten slots are scheduled to be removed, and even services to disabled children are being chopped.
Republicans repealed the Racial Justice Act, a 2009 law that was the first in the country to give death-row inmates a chance to prove they were victims of discrimination. They have refused to expand Medicaid and want to cut income taxes for the rich while raising sales taxes on everyone else. The Senate passed a bill that would close most of the state’s abortion clinics.And, naturally, the Legislature is rushing to impose voter ID requirements and cut back on early voting and Sunday voting, which have been popular among Democratic voters.
North Carolina was once considered a beacon of farsightedness in the South, an exception in a region of poor education, intolerance and tightfistedness. In a few short months, Republicans have begun to dismantle a reputation that took years to build.
Two things strike me: (1) what the GOP is doing in North Carolina is a blue print of what the Virginia GOP wants to do in Virginia, and (2) while the GOP claims to be the party of Christian values, its actions are the antithesis to the Gospel message of Christ.
Steve Grand, who is seeking to become the first major country music star who is openly gay, has a video/song (see below) that has gone somewhat viral and in the process won him an interview on Good Morning America. Grand has been criticized by some for his depiction of gays, but he is nonetheless breaking down barriers. In addition, he has talked about his experience of being pushed into bogus "ex-gay" therapy. He talks about this in an article in The Advocate. Here are highlights:
Steve Grand became an overnight sensation when his gay-themed music video, “All American Boy,” went viral shortly after being posted on YouTube last week.
The video has racked up more than 650,000 views in just six days—an accomplishment on par with some of the most successful artists currently working in the music industry.
However, the independent singer/songwriter wasn’t always as comfortable with his sexuality as he appears in his hit video, and has revealed to ABC that he once endured so-called gay-to-straight reparative therapy after he told his family he was gay.
"I felt like I really was a shame to my parents," Grand said. "I felt like there was no way I could ever make them proud and I felt like I was a constant disappointment."
Since coming to terms with his sexuality, Grand says he was driven to tell the story of his popular power-ballad, risking everything he had to make “All American Boy” a reality.
Kudos to Grand for talking about his experience and coming to terms with being gay. I look forward to the day when, hopefully, being gay is simply a non-issue.
Politico looks at the likely fate of immigration reform. Here are excerpts:
Republicans walked away from their 2012 debacle hell-bent on fixing their problems with Hispanics. Now, they appear hell-bent on making them worse.
In private conversations, top Republicans on Capitol Hill now predict comprehensive immigration reform will die a slow, months-long death in the House. Like with background checks for gun buyers, the conventional wisdom that the party would never kill immigration reform, and risk further alienating Hispanic voters, was always wrong — and ignored the reality that most House Republicans are white conservatives representing mostly white districts.
Republican leaders will huddle with their members Wednesday afternoon to plot their public strategy. But after holding countless listening sessions, it is clear to these leaders that getting even smaller, popular pieces of reform will be a tough sell.
Top Republican and Democratic leaders on Capitol Hill see the momentum swinging decidedly against getting a deal this Congress. Rubio persuaded only 13 fellow Republican senators to back the bill; the editors of the National Review and Weekly Standard offered a rare, joint editorial in opposition to it this week; and private GOP headcounts show only a small fraction of House Republicans would ever vote for anything approximating the Senate deal.
Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa), a leader of the House’s hell-no-on-immigration-reform caucus, held a jam-packed meeting Monday night to walk through why his party should proudly defeat the bipartisan bill. King said the Senate’s immigration plan would help “elites who want cheap labor, Democratic power brokers, and those who hire illegal labor.”
“It would hurt Republicans, and I don’t think you can make an argument otherwise,” King said. “Two out of every three of the new citizens would be Democrats.” Some might dismiss this as the rantings of a bombastic right-winger — but his take is mainstream theology among House Republicans.
A large number of establishment Republicans think their party will seal defeat in 2016 if it cannot move beyond this issue. . . . Most House Republicans quite frankly don’t care.
First, most represent districts with scant Hispanic populations. They will win or lose based on the views of whites, especially older ones, since that is who votes in their districts in off-year elections.
Second, most Republicans in the House and Senate just don’t believe Hispanics will vote for them in 2014, 2016 and perhaps ever — simply because they backed immigration reform.
Third, Republicans think they will look like fools with voters who would seriously think about voting for them if they backed a law predicated on trusting President Barack Obama to carry out tough border security measures.
With even the most modest measures facing an uphill fight, getting to a pathway to citizenship — which Democrats will demand be part of any eventual deal — looks like a pipe-dream.
Tuesday, July 09, 2013
The GOP's circular firing squad seems to be continuing unabated as supposed leading lights in the insane element of the GOP continue to argue that all the party needs to do for future victory is win over more white voters. Never mind that the demographic hand writing is on the wall and never mind that young whites are fleeing the party in droves, repelled by the GOP base's blatant racism and rampant homophobia. A column in the Washington Post looks at the continuing batshitery:
[T]he argument that Republicans don’t really need to improve their standing much among Latinos to be competitive in national elections is gaining real ground among Republicans — posing a serious threat to immigration reform. The emerging case is that Republicans mainly need to do even better among whites — by doing a better job energizing white supporters and by bringing in more “missing” white voters who might be inclined to vote Republican — thus relieving them of the inconvenient need to alienate their base with anything that might persuade Latinos to give their party a second look.
Today Nate Cohn published what may be the most comprehensive piece yet attempting to debunk this notion, which was perhaps best laid out by Sean Trende the other day. Cohn’s piece is well worth reading in full, but here is the summary version:
1) If Republicans are going to increase their performance among white voters even further, they will have to moderate on social issues in ways that will be discomfiting to the base in any case; Republicans will have to “pick their poison.”
2) The whites-only theory of the case depends on the GOP continuing to improve its standing among whites going forward. While this is currently happening, GOP gains among them are largely regional — focused in the south and in Appalachia. At the same time, Democrats may be gaining among whites outside these regions, which, if it continues, could “cement the Democratic edge in the Electoral College.”
3) The notion that the GOP’s future hopes turn largely on boosting turnout among “missing white voters” who didn’t turn out in 2012 is complicated by the fact that many of these voters might vote Democratic. This could be made even worse by the fact that many missing whites were young voters. Over time, if the next generation of young voters is as liberal as this one, it could push the national white voter further leftward.
Conservatives take solace in the possibility that they could win with gains through whites, presumably on the assumption that the changes needed for gains among non-southern white voters will be less painful than embracing immigration reform. To the extent that this assumption is informed by the view that the GOP is making broad, steady gains among white voters, it is wrong. The GOP has a tough road ahead.In other words, it seems like an epic gamble. But judging by the GOP’s continuing embrace of hidebound positions on issues that many Republicans themselves recognize a need to evolve upon, it increasingly appears to be a risk the party is prepared to take.
We've had a wonderful time here in the Ft. Lauderdale area over the last week and I for one am feeling less than thrilled to be headed back to Hampton Roads and anti-gay Virginia. Admittedly, Florida is not a gay friendly state, but in this area one would never know it. Virginia has nowhere comparable where gays seemingly are accepted by almost everyone and where business that cater to the LGBT market are so plentiful. During our stay we have been places ranging from the beautiful Lauderdale Yacht Club, to cruising down the Intercoastal Waterway to hitting the gay clubs in Wilton Manors taking an air boat ride across the Everglades at Cooperville.
For those who have never visited the area, I recommend Ft. Lauderdale highly. Below are some photos from over the last week.
|Lauderdale Yacht Club|
Making it all the more fun were our hosts and their amazing home and our friends we shared time with, both the locals and the ones visiting from Virginia.
|A little too close for comfort!!|
|Our friends' home|
Thankfully, we have been invited to visit again "any time."
Just this morning I noted in an earlier post how the decision in Windsor would likely trigger a flood of lawsuits challenging gay marriage bans in anti-gay states like Virginia. Now, Lambda Legal has announced plans to file a legal challenge in Virginia to the vile Marshall-Newman Amendment. I hope it is filed very soon because it will make it all the more difficult for Ken "Kookinelli" Cuccinelli to dodge his extremist positions on so-called social issues. As Attorney General, he will have to file a response to the lawsuit and layout his anti-gay bigotry for all to see. Here are details from Lambda Legal's blog (the full press release is here):
Lambda Legal and the ACLU are planning a new federal lawsuit seeking the freedom to marry for same-sex couples in Virginia.
Virginia couples who have suffered from discrimination and are interested in sharing how marriage discrimination harms their families or being a part of a campaign for the freedom to marry are encouraged to fill out a survey.
Greg Nevins, Supervising Senior Staff Attorney in Lambda Legal's Southern Regional Office, says:
The end of the so-called Defense of Marriage Act opens a new chapter in our work to ensure same-sex couples and their families across the country are treated with dignity and respect. We know that many same-sex couples and their families have waited a long time and we are excited to announce that the campaign for the freedom to marry is coming south.We do not want a country so divided by unfairness and discrimination. Same-sex couples are in loving, committed relationships in every region of our nation and should be treated the same way, whether they live in Maine or Virginia. This is one America.State laws that exclude same-sex couples from marriage not only harm those couples by denying them state rights and responsibilities, but also currently pose obstacles for legally married couples and surviving spouses seeking numerous federal protections and benefits, such as Social Security.
Lambda Legal will file a marriage lawsuit in Virginia as co-counsel with the ACLU and the ACLU of Virginia in the coming weeks.
While Pope John Paul II and his successors - and liars like Cardinal Timothy Dolan - we busy worrying about the Catholic Church's "reputation" and about hiding Church assets, real lives were being damaged and/or destroyed. Not that these horrid narcissistic men gave a damn about the countless children and youths who were sexually assaulted and raped. A lawsuit in Independence seeks to hold the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph liable for the suicide death of one teen sex abuse victim. Hopefully, the lawsuit is successful and better yet, I hope it is the first on many such lawsuits. Here are highlights from the Kansas City Star:
A civil trial begins Monday in a wrongful-death lawsuit alleging that a boy took his life 30 years ago because of repeated sexual abuse by a Kansas City priest.
Read more here: http://www.kansascity.com/2013/07/07/4334143/trial-begins-monday-for-lawsuit.html#storylink=cpy
The trial, in Jackson County Circuit Court in Independence, could be notable for the Catholic Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph, some say.
“This is an especially significant case,” said Timothy Lytton, a legal scholar at the Albany School of Law and author of “Holding Bishops Accountable: How Lawsuits Helped the Catholic Church Confront Clergy Sexual Abuse.” “One reason is that it’s rare for any of these cases to go to a jury; most of them are settled. The other reason is that it’s possibly the first high-profile case on the watch of the new pope.”
Brian Teeman, 14, died of a gunshot wound in November 1983 at the family’s home in Independence. His parents, Donald and Rosemary Teeman, filed the lawsuit in September 2011 after a man who had served as an altar boy with their son told them of the alleged abuse.
The lawsuit, which seeks unspecified damages, says the diocese shares responsibility for Brian’s death because church officials knew that Monsignor Thomas J. O’Brien was sexually abusing boys but covered it up. O’Brien is also named in the suit. His attorney, Gerald McGonagle, did not respond to a request for comment. O’Brien, now 86, has been the subject of more than two dozen sexual abuse lawsuits since 2004.
Jackson County Circuit Judge Michael Manners held as valid the Teemans’ argument that the statute of limitations should be suspended because of what they said was the defendants’ coverup, fraud and concealment of O’Brien’s alleged abuse of their son and other children. The diocese unsuccessfully appealed Manners’ ruling to the Missouri Supreme Court.
The lawsuit says O’Brien forced Brian and three other boys to perform sexual acts in the sacristy at Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary Church in Independence. The abuse began when Brian was 11 and continued until he graduated from eighth grade, the lawsuit alleges. It says O’Brien warned the boys that if they ever told, they would be kicked out of the church, be disowned by their parents and go to hell.
“The reason they (dioceses) avoid trials is because so much stuff comes out during them,” McKiernan said. “Another dynamic is that if they do take this to trial and they get punished, that may have major implications for all the other cases that are in play.”
Read more here: http://www.kansascity.com/2013/07/07/4334143/trial-begins-monday-for-lawsuit.html#storylink=cpy